Republican State Sen. Mike Williams Turns Independent

Nashville (AP) -- State Senator Mike Williams announced Wednesday that he's shedding his Republican affiliation to turn independent.

Williams' move draws the senate to an even 16-16 split between democrats and republicans, with one independent.

Williams' departure from the Republicans won't affect senate leadership.

Ron Ramsey, who in January became the first Republican elected Speaker of the Senate since Reconstruction, will remain in the top post for a two-year term despite Williams' switch.

Williams, of Maynardville, drew the ire of Republicans three years ago when he bucked his party to help Democratic Senator John Wilder remain Speaker despite a one-seat Republican majority.

Wilder rewarded Williams by making him Senate Speaker Pro Tempore.

The 52-year-old Williams is up for re-election in 2008.

Copyright 2007 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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